Common medicinal cannabis legislation needed across all states

With the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis becoming legal in Australia, and receiving recent media coverage, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia is calling for the development of common legislation across all states.

The CEO of SHPA, Kristin Michaels said today that an agreed Australia-wide approach to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is essential for ensuring public understanding of acceptable and unacceptable usage and to protect standards for medicines management.

“While there is substantial evidence for the benefits of medicinal cannabis in specific situations, the wide range of approved usage across different states of Australia sends mixed signals to the broader Australian public regarding both appropriate use and the expertise of medical authorities,” says Michaels.

She says that it is important for Australians to receive clear, unambiguous messages about acceptable use of medicinal cannabis as distinct from recreational, illegal use.

“SHPA appreciates that each jurisdiction will differ slightly regarding how medicinal cannabis will be prescribed and regulated but there should be a concerted effrort to at least find some common ground regarding acceptable prescribing,” Michaels says.

“From March next year it will be possible to be prescribed medicinal cannabis in Queensland for illnesses including MS, cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy. In NSW it will be available for adults only for ‘end of life’ illnesses. In Victoria, from 2017, it will be available for children with severe epilepsy.

“To the general public, the mix of approaches will be confusing and will not provide reassurance regarding the general quality of the Australian health system.

“SHPA is well positioned to support different jurisdictions to find common ground for medicinal cannabis prescribing,” she says.

“SHPA can also assist clinical trials for the use of medicinal cannabis for patients for whom our members currently provide care. These include chemotherapy patients with severe nausea and vomiting, patients with chronic pain and paediatric patients with severe epilepsy.

“As Australia introduces agreed processes for using medicinal cannabis, it is important to provide educational support for patients and their carers. SHPA can ensure a nationally consistent approach.

“SHPA also recommends, and can support, a national collaboration for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis usage, as part of evaluating its place in future clinical practice,” says Michaels.  

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